18 June 2017

THE JAPAN DIARIES: Kawaii Monster Cafe

Hey everyone,

After our crazy night at the Robot Restaurant (post soon!) with my friend Hiro-chama I had my bets on him booking us a table at the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku when we met again the following year.

Lo and behold, he came up trumps!

The brainchild of Harajuku legend Sebastian Masuda - best known for being the founder of the iconic Harajuku brand 6% DokiDoki and the art director behind my queen Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

It's without a doubt, the craziest restaurant I've ever visited.

Not to everyone's taste of course, but if you're like me and can appreciate the creepy, cute plastic-y world of kawaii then you're in for a treat.

Hiro also brought his friends Marcel and Eddie along, who were adorable.
(Marcel has kindly allowed me to use his photos since I got distracted and pretty much forgot!)

Upon entrance, there is a huge wiggly red carpet which the host explained (and Hiro translated) is the tongue of the monster and we are entering the belly.


I don't currently have a pet - but if I did, it would definitely be a kawaii monster. 

Me and Eddie looking surprisingly chill for two people about to get swallowed whole.
Note the fuzzy red monster's tongue carpet!

I had stalked seen several of the hosts online, and they are dressed in stereotypical Decora-influenced Harajuku get-up.
But we hit the jackpot and got a 'Harajuku boy' (aka 'Monster Dolly') who was utterly adorable.

"You can take pictures, but please no touch!"

There are several areas in the restaurant to sit, all with a different theme.

We selected an area covered with plastic almost-kinda-sexual red lips and milk bottles hanging from the ceiling because why not?

Cutie pies!

The menu itself was crazy, an ipad set in a big plastic cake. There is an option for Japanese and English.

It's incredibly easy enough to understand, but the very cute waiter still took us through everything.


And of course the food is absolutely mental.
Everything is brightly coloured and looks like something Rainbow Brite would have for lunch.

Hiro went for the rainbow pasta in a creamy sauce, but he advised it was less of a pasta and more like ramen with cream cheese.

Me and Eddie went for the egg sushi which was pretty standard, not the best or worse I've had in Japan - however the brightly coloured smears of wasabi mayonnaise were actually pretty delicious.

What really stands out are the desserts which don't even look real.
We chose a huge ice cream parfait to share - and even for four greedy people, it was more than enough!

Packed with ice cream and cake which was delicious but the real surprise was the rainbow frosting - each colour had a different flavour, and reminded us of the lickable wallpaper from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


You are supposed to stay in your allocated area and there are rumours online of being thwacked with another charge if you go on a wander, but it was fairly empty when we went and nobody batted an eyelid.

Huge bulbous plant booths - serving Alice In Wonderland/Jumaji realness.

There is also a huge merry-go-round shaped like a cake with lashings of whipped cream, fruit and creatures - it would have been nice to be able to sit and pose for a photo, but unfortunately it's a no-go.

Apparently the Kawaii Monster girls (and boy, I guess) put on a show on the merry-go-round, but most likely due to the restaurant being almost empty when we went this sadly didn't happen.


Our waitress asked where we were all from and was delighted we were all from different countries (I'm from the UK, Hiro from Japan, Marcel from Brazil and Eddie from Vietnam) and she presented us with colourful chopsticks to take home for free, decorated with our country's flags which was a lovely touch!

There is also a merchandise section, but nothing particularly caught my eye.
The usual though: pens, mugs, badges etc.

I think the price was quite reasonable for the experience - there is a Y500 (£3.50) cover charge per person, but you then receive a 'Fall In Stomach Monster Card' which means if you return your group gets in for free.

Mains are approximately Y1500 (£10.00) each and desserts between Y750 (£5.50) and Y2800 (£20.00) if you get something to share like we did.

It certainly doesn't break the bank - especially for Tokyo!

Note that some evenings, the place has more of an adult vibe - including hosting fetish nights.
So if that's not your bag baby, best to check the website before planning your visit!

Overall the food is fair for what it is - the mains are not incredibly tasty, but the desserts are to die for.
The overall experience? Unmissable!

Muchos love

DISCLAIMER: Most photos (aka the good ones!) by Marcel Ferragi.

6 June 2017

TRAVEL: Birthday In Barcelona

Hey everyone,

So I spent my birthday in Barcelona.
My birthday in 2016.
I am the queen of procrastination.

It was sunny in Newcastle.
In Barcelona it was not.

However as birthday 2017 has just passed, I'd still like to share my trip as it really was wonderful and I completely fell in love with Barcelona.

It was my first time visiting the city - and indeed, Spain!
I know, I know right?
Pretty unheard of for a Brit, especially one who works in travel.

Usually when me and Claire go on our jaunts, one of us has visited before and can pretty much steer the other around.
But it was completely new for both of us, and it was so much fun adventuring.

I thought I'd share some of my favourite pictures and top tips for first timers.

DO: Stay on Las Ramblas.
It's the tourist central of Barcelona, but also means you're so close to everything. We managed to make it through our entire stay without having to use the metro!

We stayed at Hotel Arc La Rambla and can recommend it without hesitation if you are looking for budget, clean and central accommodation.

Overcast - wah!
But nevertheless still beautiful!

If you don't eat gelato at least once a day on holiday whatever the weather then what are you even doing with your life..? 

DO: Walk everywhere you can!

Even getting from A to B is beautiful and I loved getting lost in all the little side streets.
We stumbled across an adorable courtyard with orange trees which we would have otherwise missed!


DO: Do the hop-on-hop-off bus tour if it's your first time.
Touristy yes, but hey - you're a tourist!

It saves fannying on with metros and buses and will take you to everywhere you need to see for your first visit. You'll most likely get discounts on other places.

Go on the open top bus they said. It'll be sunny they said.

DO: Skip breakfast one day and eat your way around La Boqueria market.

Everything looked absolutely delicious - fresh fruit, smoothies, macarons, marzipan, empanadas and other pasties, falafel with salad, chorizo and other yummy, fatty meats and pretty much every form of seafood going.



Claire got a feta and spinach empanada (when, I pointed out, is the Spanish equivalent of a Gregg's pasty because she is common) and a fruit pot. 

I had a watermelon and strawberry smoothie and some meat on a stick for €1. 
Perfect for a pre-beer snack!

DO: Frequently stop for (lots of) drinks and people watch.

This is always one of my favourite things about travelling, and Barcelona was no exception.

We saw a group performing a castell - a Catalan tradition involving essentially building a human tower, a German stag party dressed as Minions, to a poor bloke who'd obviously overdone it on the plane and fell asleep head first into his steak.
Everybody clapped when he woke up, including the waiting staff.

Another night we we got chatting to a young guy who sat with us all evening and showed us card tricks!


DO: Splash out on an evening of flamenco.
This was one of the most special nights of our trip and we went as a pre-birthday treat.

The one we went to was Tablao Flamenco Cordobes on Ramblas, and I can't recommend it enough.
A bit pricey at €80 per head, but that includes a delicious buffet meal and drinks before the show, as well as a glass of Cava while you watch.

However, DO NOT overdo it on the free bar as Claire ended up getting overemotional and crying.

DO: Keep an eye on your belongings...but really just exercise common sense.

Las Ramblas has a bit of a reputation for pickpockets. Perhaps it was because we visited in May before the peak tourist season began, but we never had any hassle at all.

In all honesty, I've felt more unsafe in Paris, and someone once attempted to snatch my friend's bag at London Kings Cross so there you go.

And the locals really do watch out for you - at one point Claire forgot herself, leaving her iPhone out on the table (it's suggested you keep it in your bag) and the maitre d of the restaurant we were in gently nudged it towards her and indicated to put it away.

I find a sturdy cross bag works well and when you're walking around, casually keep a hand on it.
But you really don't need to go OTT with a fanny pack or safety belts as that'll just make you stand out as a tourist. Blending in is key!

DO: Wander down to the port.
It's absolutely beautiful. When we went there were two flea markets on as well as lots of street entertainment.


DO: Go down to the beach.
Well, I mean I'm sure it's lovely. But when we went it was raining. Bloody Barcelona.

DO: Prebook for the Sagrida Familia.
This can easily be done online in a few minutes. We smugly walked past a massive queue at lunchtime and went straight in.


And finally...

DO NOT: Order oysters when Claire is hungover.
The poor lass chundered everywhere.


I'm already planning on returning in March 2018 with my lovely pal Chris - I can't wait!

Muchos love